IT Security Named 'Hottest' Job of the Year

Forget being called a nerd back in high school. It's time for the techies to have the lastlaugh.

IT security specialist has just been named the hottest job for 2003 and 2004, according toChallenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based international outplacement firm. And the postof chief privacy officer just got the nod for the highest-paying hot job, bringing in anaverage salary of $122,360. An IT manager or security manager came in ninth on the list ofhigh-paying hot jobs with an average salary of $91,470.

Security is simply hot this year.

The security industry came in second, just behind preventative health care, for the hottestindustry of this year and next.

''Anti-terrorism measures will increase the need for security personnel,'' reportsChallenger, Gray & Christmas. ''There is also growing concern among companies to protecttheir greatest asset: information. Additionally, employers are increasingly concerned aboutthe people they are hiring, which will give rise to investigative services.''

Security and IT managers are earning salaries of more than $91,000, according to the report.And a survey of top corporate information systems security executives for Fortune 500companies found that the average overall compensation level was $237,000.

''Corporations are collecting more information than ever due largely to the data-gatheringcapabilities of the Internet,'' says John Challenger, chief executive officer of theoutplacement firm. ''Companies will need individuals to make use of this information, butmore importantly, they will need people to protect this information.''

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata, an industry analyst firm based in Nashua, N.H., sayshe sees no signs of the security industry cooling off any time soon.

''Security, in terms of IT employment in general, was one of the few relatively bright spotsall the way through the big IT downturn,'' says Haff. ''Certainly 9/11 created a lot ofsensitivity to security. Viruses continue to increase. All of that has created a lot ofawareness of security needs.''

But Haff remains somewhat skeptical that awareness will actual translate into spending.

''The question comes: There's a lot of awareness of security but how much are individualcompanies really going to be willing to pay to implement better security?'' Haff asks. ''Howmuch real change in process are they willing to make? For it to remain a hot job, companiesas a whole need to demonstrate that they're willing to continue spending on it in the longterm as opposed to doing some quick fixes.''